Willamette Apprentice Ballet presents its spring concert, "Bravura," Friday and Saturday night at the Majestic Theatre in Corvallis. 

Photo by Charles Prince

One definition of "bravura" is a brilliant performance, which is why Willamette Apprentice Ballet chose it as their spring concert title and theme.

Bravura also denotes great technical skill, which director Megan Skinner is confident the company's dancers will show during performances Friday and Saturday night at the Majestic Theatre.

"The dancers of Willamette Apprentice Ballet, particularly this year's graduating high school and college seniors, have achieved significant levels of technical ability and artistry as classically trained dancers, and this concert celebrates their numerous accomplishments, both inside and outside the dance world," she said.

The nine graduating senior dancers represent the largest graduating class Willamette Apprentice Ballet has had in its 23-year history, Skinner said.

The graduating senior dancers are: Erin Hoffman and Cora Kim from Crescent Valley High School; Bethany Ayers-Hale, Finn Garrison, Caroline Hintzman, Charlotte Kehder, and Denise Leon-Aispuro from Corvallis High School; and Kamron Kayhani and Brooke Crawford from Oregon State University.

Having so many dancers motivated Skinner, resident choreographer Matthew Averill and guest choreographer Kristin Jones to feature a big concert piece, "Paquita Grand Pas Classique." It is a 35-minute "highlights reel" of excerpts from the 19th century classical ballet "Paquita," Skinner said.

The piece created many opportunities for all of the company's 17 dancers to shine, she said.

The program also includes Spanish, Neapolitan and Russian dances from Act III of "Swan Lake," performed by dancers in Intermediate/Advanced Character Dance class at the Corvallis Academy of Ballet.

"These three dynamic character dances carry on the 'bravura' theme of the evening," Skinner said.

Guest choreographers Jones and Mimi Chen contribute pieces to the concert. Chen has created a new contemporary dance piece set to Claude Debussy's "Reverie," which incorporates film to emphasize a dream-like quality, Skinner said.

Jones' "Dawn to Dusk" grew out of improvisation exercises during modern dance classes she taught last summer at Corvallis Academy of Ballet. Some of the same students helped rearrange the improvised movements to create an new work.

The concert also features the Third Annual Student Choreography Competition. This year, seven choreographers submitted nine pieces for the preliminary round Feb. 24. Four of those advanced to the final round of the competition and will be performed at the concert: "Scherzo" by Cora Kim; "Four Muses" by Ezra Hart; "Pieces to Peace" and "The Space Among Us," both by Camilla Robertson.

The prize during the first two years of competition was to be included in the spring concert. Now the choreographers will compete for cash prizes and gift cards, as well as an award for audience favorite.

Audience members at Friday's show will be able to vote by secret ballot for their favorite of the four student pieces. Prizes will be awarded on stage at the end of Saturday's performance.

Skinner thinks audiences will enjoy the variety of dance styles, music and choreography choices at "Bravura!"

But the concert will be bittersweet for her, with about half of Willamette Apprentice Ballet's dancers performing with the company for the last time.

"I hope that local audiences will take the opportunity to watch these extraordinary young dancers before they dance out into the world," Skinner said.


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